Eternalism

Edited by Sam Baron (University of Western Australia)
Assistant editor: James Darcy (University of Virginia)
About this topic
Summary Eternalism is the picture of time delivered to us by the special and general theories of relativity. Eternalists hold, roughly, that (i) all times from the big-bang to the heat death of the universe exist equally; (ii) there is nothing metaphysically special about the present (terms like 'present' and 'now' are indexical notions); (iii) the passage of time is not an objective feature of reality. Eternalism is also known as the 'block universe' view, which is meant to suggest a conception of the universe as a four-dimensional spacetime manifold.
Key works

Mellor 1998 offers a book length defense of the eternalist model of time and discusses many of the issues and arguments surrounding the view. For early defenders of the view see Williams 1951, which offers the prototype argument for eternalism or the manifold/block universe, and Taylor 1955, which emphasizes the lack of clear difference between time and space. Putnam 1967 and Rietdijk 1966 advocate for an eternalist model of time based on the special theory of relativity, and Smart 1963 holds that eternalism results from dropping our pre-scientific, anthropocentric view of the world. Sider 2001 argues effectively for eternalism in the midst of a book length defense of a perdurance theory of persistence.

Introductions Good introductions include Rea 2003, Miller 2013, the collected papers in Ciuni et al 2013 and Markosian 2010.
Related categories

196 found
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1 — 50 / 196
  1. added 2018-12-08
    The Unique Groundability of Temporal Facts.John Cusbert & Kristie Miller - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97 (2):410-432.
    The A-theory and the B-theory advance competing claims about how time is grounded. The A-theory says that A-facts are more fundamental in grounding time than are B-facts, and the B-theory says the reverse. We argue that whichever theory is true of the actual world is also true of all possible worlds containing time. We do this by arguing that time is uniquely groundable: however time is actually grounded, it is necessarily grounded in that way. It follows that if either the (...)
  2. added 2018-11-19
    L'éternité sans le temps.Baptiste Le Bihan - forthcoming - Revue Philosophique De Louvain.
    L'éternalisme implique une forme exotique d'éternité : toute entité, aussi éphémère soit-elle et quelle que soit sa localisation dans le temps, existe relativement à toute autre localisation temporelle. Cet essai vise, premièrement, à défendre l'éternalisme en exhibant les difficultés rédhibitoires du présentisme et du non-futurisme, et deuxièmement à examiner de quelle manière l'éternalisme pourrait être amendé à l'aune d'une affirmation que l'on trouve sous la plume de certains physiciens, à savoir que, fondamentalement, le temps n'existe pas. La disparition du temps (...)
  3. added 2018-09-30
    Naïve Realism, Seeing Stars, and Perceiving the Past.Alex Moran - forthcoming - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly:1-31.
    It seems possible to see a star that no longer exists. Yet it also seems right to say that what no longer exists cannot be seen. We therefore face a puzzle, the traditional answer to which involves abandoning naïve realism in favour of a sense datum view. In this article, however, I offer a novel exploration of the puzzle within a naïve realist framework. As will emerge, the best option for naïve realists is to embrace an eternalist view of time, (...)
  4. added 2018-09-06
    Presentness, Where Art Thou? Self-Locating Belief and the Moving Spotlight.Kristie Miller - 2017 - Analysis 77 (4):777-788.
    Ross Cameron's The Moving Spotlight argues that of the three most common dynamical theories of time – presentism, the growing block theory and the moving spotlight theory – his version of the MST is the best. This paper focuses on Cameron's response the epistemic objection. It considers two of Cameron's arguments: that a standard version of the MST can successfully resist the epistemic objection, and that Cameron's preferred version of the MST has an additional avenue open to it for resisting (...)
  5. added 2018-07-29
    Episodic Memory, the Cotemporality Problem, and Common Sense.César Schirmer Dos Santos - 2018 - Essays in Philosophy 19 (2).
    Direct realists about episodic memory claim that a rememberer has direct contact with a past event. But how is it possible to be acquainted with an event that ceased to exist? That’s the so-called cotemporality problem. The standard solution, proposed by Sven Bernecker, is to distinguish between the occurrence of an event and the existence of an event: an event ceases to occur without ceasing to exist. That’s the eternalist solution for the cotemporality problem. Nevertheless, some philosophers of memory claim (...)
  6. added 2018-07-04
    Reflection on the dairy industrial modernization in S. Miguel (1941-1946). An experimental philosophy essay on the ontology of time.Miguel Soares de Albergaria - 2018 - Omnia 8 (2).
    This paper presents a case study for the elucidation of historical time. Specifically, it configures the sudden modernization of dairy industry in an island whose other historic dimensions shall have however remained relatively stable, S. Miguel (Azores), in view of a complete explanation of this process. On the basis of such explanation, certain inferences, according to Hempel's deductive model, are considered legitimate, on the theoretical formulation of time that can frame such a process. Namely, proposing the theses of A-theory (McTaggart) (...)
  7. added 2018-06-29
    Time, Metaphysics Of.Natalja Deng - forthcoming - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Metaphysics is the part of philosophy that asks questions about the nature of reality – about what there is, and what it is like. The metaphysics of time is the part of the philosophy of time that asks questions about the nature of temporal reality. One central such question is that of whether time passes or flows, or whether it has a dynamic aspect.
  8. added 2018-06-05
    Skow on Robust Passage and The Moving Spotlight Theory.Daniel Deasy - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (7):1791-1805.
    Bradford Skow’s Objective Becoming (2015) is a strikingly original and philosophically rich contribution to contemporary philosophy of time. The book rewards very careful study, and is surely a ‘must-read’ for anyone with an interest in current debates concerning time and change. Perhaps the most immediately compelling aspect of the book is its leading question: if I [Skow] didn’t already accept the ‘block universe theory’ (BU),1 which theory of time would I defend? Skow’s surprising (and, from my perspective, welcome!) answer is (...)
  9. added 2018-05-28
    Self‐Locating Evidence and the Metaphysics of Time.David Builes - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    I argue that different views in the metaphysics of time make different observational predictions in both classical and relativistic cases. Because different views in the metaphysics of time differ over which facts are merely indexical facts, they make different observational predictions about certain self-locating propositions. I argue for this thesis by distinguishing the three main updating procedures that apply in cases of self-locating uncertainty, and I present a series of cases which cumulatively show that every one of these updating procedures (...)
  10. added 2018-05-28
    Presentism, Eternalism and Where Things Are Located.Emanuel Viebahn - forthcoming - Synthese:1-12.
    In several recent papers, Daniel Deasy has argued that the presentism-eternalism debate is unclear and should be abandoned. According to Deasy, there is no way of spelling out the predicate ‘is present’ that leads to a satisfactory definition of presentism: on some interpretations, presentism turns out to be compatible with eternalism, on others, it is clearly false or unacceptable for other reasons. The aim of this paper is to show that this line of argument should be resisted: if the predicate (...)
  11. added 2018-04-09
    Can Things Endure in Tenseless Time.Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson - 2009 - SATS 10 (1):79-99.
    It has been argued that the tenseless view of time is incompatible with endurantism. This has been disputed, perhaps most famously by Hugh Mellor and Peter Simons. They argue that things can endure in tenseless time, and indeed must endure if tenseless time is to contain change. In this paper I will point out some difficulties with Mellor’s and Simons’ claims that in tenseless time a particular can be ‘wholly present’ at various times, and therefore endure, as well as have (...)
  12. added 2018-03-25
    The Truth About Osmo.E. J. M. Marques - 2017 - Logic and Philosophy of Time: Themes From Prior, Volume 1.
  13. added 2018-02-17
    Why Quantum Mechanics Favors Adynamical and Acausal Interpretations Such as Relational Blockworld Over Backwardly Causal and Time-Symmetric Rivals.Michael Silberstein, Michael Cifone & William Mark Stuckey - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 39 (4):736-751.
    We articulate the problems posed by the quantum liar experiment (QLE) for backwards causation interpretations of quantum mechanics, time-symmetric accounts and other dynamically oriented local hidden variable theories. We show that such accounts cannot save locality in the case of QLE merely by giving up “lambda-independence.” In contrast, we show that QLE poses no problems for our acausal Relational Blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics, which invokes instead adynamical global constraints to explain Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen (EPR) correlations and QLE. We make the case (...)
  14. added 2017-09-07
    What is Temporal Ontology?Natalja Deng - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (3):793-807.
    Temporal ontology is the part of ontology involving the rival positions of presentism, eternalism, and the growing block theory. While this much is clear, it’s surprisingly difficult to elucidate the substance of the disagreement between presentists and eternalists. Certain events happened that are not happening now; what is it to disagree about whether these events exist? In spite of widespread suspicion concerning the status and methods of analytic metaphysics, skeptics’ doubts about this debate have not generally been heeded, neither by (...)
  15. added 2017-05-05
    Presentism and the Sceptical Challenge.Giuliano Torrengo - 2016 - Manuscrito 39 (4):101-116.
    Even hard-core metaphysicians should admit that certain disputesmay indeed turn out not tobe substantive. The debate between presentism and eternalism has recently come undersceptical attack. The aim of the paper is to argue that a certain approach to presentism is indeedin danger of succumbing to the sceptic, and thus a no-go for the presentist.
  16. added 2017-04-07
    Time Passages.Miller Kristie - 2017 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 24 (3):149-176.
    Temporal dynamists argue that we should believe that there exists temporal passage because there being passage is the best explanation for the presence of our temporal phenomenology. Some non-dynamists have countered that the presence of passage makes no difference to our temporal phenomenology, and consequently that temporal phenomenology cannot be evidence that there is passage. This paper attempts to bolster this non-dynamist response by offering new arguments for the claim that the presence of passage makes no difference to our phenomenology.
  17. added 2017-03-22
    The Rights of Future Persons and the Ontology of Time.Aaron M. Griffith - 2017 - Journal of Social Philosophy 48 (1):58-70.
    Many are committed to the idea that the present generation has obligations to future generations, for example, obligations to preserve the environment and certain natural resources for those generations. However, some philosophers want to explain why we have these obligations in terms of correlative rights that future persons have against persons in the present. Attributing such rights to future persons is controversial, for there seem to be compelling arguments against the position. According to the “nonexistence” argument, future persons cannot have (...)
  18. added 2017-03-04
    Issues in Theoretical Diversity: Persistence, Composition, and Time.Kristie Miller - 2006 - Springer.
    Our world is full of composite objects that persist through time: dogs, persons, chairs and rocks. But in virtue of what do a bunch of little objects get to compose some bigger object, and how does that bigger object persist through time? This book aims to answer these questions, but it does so by looking at accounts of composition and persistence through a new methodological lens. It asks the question: what does it take for two theories to be genuinely different, (...)
  19. added 2017-02-17
    An Outline of Reality.Tomas Pales - manuscript
    This paper aims to provide a basic explanation of existence, fundamental aspects of reality, and consciousness. Existence in its most general sense is identified with the principle of logical consistency: to exist means to be logically consistent. The essence of the principle of logical consistency is that every thing is what it is and is not what it is not. From this principle follows the existence of intrinsic, indescribable identities of things and relations between them. There are three fundamental, logically (...)
  20. added 2017-01-14
    Eternalist Tensism.Michael Nelson - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (6):590-605.
    Eternalist tensism is the thesis that tense is an objective feature of reality as it is in itself and that all times, whether past, present, or future, are equally real. I develop an argument from qualitative change in favor of tensism and defend eternalism from an argument from fatalism.
  21. added 2016-12-12
    Time Remains.Sean Gryb & Karim P. Y. Thébault - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):663-705.
    On one popular view, the general covariance of gravity implies that change is relational in a strong sense, such that all it is for a physical degree of freedom to change is for it to vary with regard to a second physical degree of freedom. At a quantum level, this view of change as relative variation leads to a fundamentally timeless formalism for quantum gravity. Here, we will show how one may avoid this acute ‘problem of time’. Under our view, (...)
  22. added 2016-12-12
    What is It to “B” a Relation?Jonathan Tallant - 2008 - Synthese 162 (1):117-132.
    The purpose of this paper is two fold: first, I look to show Oaklander’s (The ontology of time. New York: Prometheus Books, 2004) theory of time to be false. Second, I show that the only way to salvage the B-theory is via the adopting of the causal theory of time, and allying this to Oaklander’s claim that tense is to be eliminated. I then raise some concerns with the causal theory of time. My conclusion is that, if one adopts eternalism, (...)
  23. added 2016-12-08
    Presentism and Eternalism.Harold W. Noonan - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (1):219-227.
    How is the debate between presentism and eternalism to be characterized? It is usual to suggest that this debate about time is analogous to the debate between the actualist and the possibilist about modality. I think that this suggestion is right. In what follows I pursue the analogy more strictly than is usual and offer a characterization of what is at the core of the dispute between presentists and eternalists that may be immune to worries often raised about the substantiality (...)
  24. added 2016-12-08
    The Metaphysics of Time: A Dialogue.Bradley Dowden - 2009 - Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    Seventh in the New Dialogues in Philosophy series, this book discusses the concept of time and shows in the simplest ways how time informs discussions about causality, creation, physics, natural disasters, and much more. Creating a series of conversations between two fictional characters, Bradley Dowden uses the characters to explore nine metaphysical issues involving time.
  25. added 2016-12-08
    Relativity and the Moving Spotlight.Bradford Skow - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (12):666-678.
    A standard objection to the moving spotlight theory of time is that it is incompatible with special relativity. I show how to formulate the moving spotlight theory so that it is perfectly compatible with special relativity. There is no need to re-interpret the physics or add to it a notion of absolute simultaneity.
  26. added 2016-12-08
    Temporal Parts and Timeless Parthood.Eric T. Olson - 2006 - Noûs 40 (4):738–752.
    What is a temporal part? Most accounts explain it in terms of timeless parthood: a thing's having a part without temporal qualification. Some find this hard to understand, and thus find the view that persisting things have temporal parts--fourdimensionalism--unintelligible. T. Sider offers to help by defining temporal parthood in terms of a thing's having a part at a time. I argue that no such account can capture the notion of a temporal part that figures in orthodox four-dimensionalism: temporal parts must (...)
  27. added 2016-12-08
    Divine Judgment and the Nature of Time.Patrick Toner - 2005 - Faith and Philosophy 22 (3):316-329.
    Many Christians believe that persons who, at the moment of death, are in rebellion from God, are damned, while those in right relationship with Godare saved. This is what, for instance, the Catholic teaching regarding the fate of those who die in mortal sin amounts to. In this paper, I argue that this “last moment view” is incompatible with a popular theory of time known as eternalism, according to which all times are equally real. If that’s right, then those who (...)
  28. added 2016-12-05
    A Companion to the Philosophy of Time.Adrian Bardon & Heather Dyke (eds.) - 2013 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  29. added 2016-12-02
    God, Time and Eternity.Steve Bishop - 2004 - Quodlibet 6.
  30. added 2016-12-02
    Time and Events.Erwin Biser - 1953 - Philosophy of Science 20 (3):238-240.
  31. added 2016-11-30
    On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  32. added 2016-11-05
    Presentismo, referência ao passado e proposições.César Schirmer dos Santos - 2011 - Investigação Filosófica 2 (2):1-8.
    Os presentistas nos dizem que os únicos objetos percorridos pelos quantificadoresde escopo mais amplo são aqueles que existem no presente, o que leva seus críticos aperguntarem o que torna verdadeiros os enunciados sobre o passado, como “Sócrates foi umfilósofo”. Em defesa do presentismo, e seguindo a proposta de Fiocco (2007), argumentamosque o que torna verdadeiro um enunciado sobre o passado é uma proposição, que proposiçõesnão existem no tempo, e que nada na teoria presentista compromete seus defensores com atese de que (...)
  33. added 2016-11-04
    Tense and Relativity.Andrew Bacon - 2018 - Noûs 52 (3):667-696.
    Those inclined to positions in the philosophy of time that take tense seriously have typically assumed that not all regions of space-time are equal: one special region of space-time corresponds to what is presently happening. When combined with assumptions from modern physics this has the unsettling consequence that the shape of this favored region distinguishes people in certain places or people traveling at certain velocities. In this paper I shall attempt to avoid this result by developing a tensed picture of (...)
  34. added 2016-10-28
    The Unique Groundability of Temporal Facts.John Cusbert & Kristie Millier - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (1).
    The A-theory and the B-theory advance competing claims about how time is grounded. The A-theory says that A-facts are more fundamental in grounding time than are B-facts, and the B-theory says the reverse. We argue that whichever theory is true of the actual world is also true of all possible worlds containing time. We do this by arguing that time is uniquely groundable: however time is actually grounded, it is necessarily grounded in that way. It follows that if either the (...)
  35. added 2016-10-04
    Four-Dimensionalism, Evil, and Christian Belief.R. T. Mullins - 2014 - Philosophia Christi 16 (1):117-137.
    Four-dimensionalism and eternalism are theories on time, change, and persistence. Christian philosophers and theologians have adopted four-dimensional eternalism for various reasons. In this paper I shall attempt to argue that four-dimensional eternalism conflicts with Christian thought. Section I will lay out two varieties of four-dimensionalism—perdurantism and stage theory—along with the typically associated ontologies of time of eternalism and growing block. I shall contrast this with presentism and endurantism. Section II will look at some of the purported theological benefits of adopting (...)
  36. added 2016-08-04
    David Lewis, Donald C. Williams, and the History of Metaphysics in the Twentieth Century.A. R. J. Fisher - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (1):3--22.
    The revival of analytic metaphysics in the latter half of the twentieth century is typically understood as a consequence of the critiques of logical positivism, Quine’s naturalization of ontology, Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, clarifications of modal notions in logic, and the theoretical exploitation of possible worlds. However, this explanation overlooks the work of metaphysicians at the height of positivism and linguisticism that affected metaphysics of the late twentieth century. Donald C. Williams is one such philosopher. In this paper I explain (...)
  37. added 2016-07-30
    What Happens to the Present When It Becomes the Past?Paul R. Daniels - forthcoming - In Jacob Held (ed.), Stephen King and Philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield.
    In The Langoliers, passengers on an airline flight wake to find that they’ve mysteriously travelled a few minutes back in time… a few minutes behind everyone else. They find that the world still exists, after ‘the present’ has moved on, but only for a short duration before the Langoliers—the timekeepers of eternity—arrive to remove it permanently from existence. This story prompts two interesting questions: How should we understand the nature of time in The Langoliers? Could the nature of time in (...)
  38. added 2016-03-01
    The Moving Spotlight Lights, and Having Lit, Moves On.Kristie Miller - 2016 - Metascience:1-5.
    Ross Cameron’s the moving spotlight reminds me a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean. Although there are no pirates, it’s a rip roaring swashbuckling adventure. It’s a wild ride. Truth be told, many of us will probably conclude that it’s no more plausible an account of our world than is Pirates of the Caribbean a faithful depiction of piracy. I’m not a moving spotlight theorist. There aren’t many of them out there. I’m not even an A-theorist, though there are plenty (...)
  39. added 2016-03-01
    A. A. Rini and M. J. Cresswell, The World-Time Parallel. Tense and Modality in Logic and Metaphysics. Reviewed By.Kristie Miller - 2013 - Philosophy in Review 33 (1):70-73.
    This book advertises itself as an exploration of the world-time parallel, that is, the parallel between the modal dimension, on the one hand, and the temporal dimension, on the other. It is that, and much more. As the authors point out, there is reasonable agreement that we can model times, through temporal logic, in ways that are analogous to those by which we model modality through the logic of possible worlds. But this formal parallel has almost universally been taken to (...)
  40. added 2016-02-19
    Beneficence and Procreation.Molly Gardner - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (2):321-336.
    Consider a duty of beneficence towards a particular individual, S, and call a reason that is grounded in that duty a “beneficence reason towards S.” Call a person who will be brought into existence by an act of procreation the “resultant person.” Is there ever a beneficence reason towards the resultant person for an agent to procreate? In this paper, I argue for such a reason by appealing to two main premises. First, we owe a pro tanto duty of beneficence (...)
  41. added 2016-02-04
    Eternity a History.Yitzhak Y. Melamed (ed.) - 2016 - Oxford University Press USA.
    Eternity is a unique kind of existence that is supposed to belong to the most real being or beings. It is an existence that is not shaken by the common wear and tear of time. Over the two and half millennia history of Western philosophy we find various conceptions of eternity, yet one sharp distinction between two notions of eternity seems to run throughout this long history: eternity as timeless existence, as opposed to eternity as existence in all times. Both (...)
  42. added 2015-09-07
    Presentism: Foreigner-Friendly or Xenophobic?Bryan Frances - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (3):479-488.
    I argue that, for all we know, there are perfectly ordinary actual entities that are temporal in the usual sense and yet never present, past, or future. This epistemic fact requires us to modify the theses of presentism and eternalism. More importantly, it generates three new and quite serious objections to presentism, which I formulate and partially evaluate in this paper.
  43. added 2015-09-02
    On Whether B-Theoretic Atheists Should Fear Death.Natalja Deng - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (4):1011-1021.
    In this paper I revisit a dispute between Mikel Burley and Robin Le Poidevin about whether or not the B-theory of time can give its adherents any reason to be less afraid of death. In ‘Should a B-theoretic atheist fear death?’, Burley argues that even on Le Poidevin’s understanding of the B-theory, atheists shouldn’t be comforted. His reason is that the prevalent B-theoretic account of our attitudes towards the past and future precludes treating our fear of death as unwarranted. I (...)
  44. added 2015-09-02
    Eternal Time, Eternal Secret: The Thesis of the Eternity of Time in Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed.Edgar Eslava - 2011 - Discusiones Filosóficas 12 (19):99 - 111.
    In an excellent article that traces the logical structure of Maimonides’ Guide of the perplexed and his arguments on the existence of God, William Lane Craig (1988 122-147), concludes that most of the Guide’s impact rests precisely on its rigorous method of deduction. Perhaps, in Craig’s view, this is one of the things that makes Maimonides a model for further conciliating attempts between theology and philosophy. However, despite his careful analysis, there is one idea that Craig mentions and leaves undeveloped, (...)
  45. added 2015-03-25
    The Puzzle of the Changing Past.Luca Barlassina & Fabio Del Prete - 2015 - Analysis 75 (1):59-67.
    If you utter sentence ‘Obama was born in 1961’ now, you say something true about the past. Since the past will always be such that the year 1961 has the property of being a time in which Obama was born, it seems impossible that could ever be false in a future context of utterance. We shall consider the case of a sentence about the past exactly like , but which was true when uttered a few years ago and is no (...)
  46. added 2015-03-25
    Bacc to the Future?Nick Alchin - 2003 - The Philosophers' Magazine 23 (23):15-16.
  47. added 2015-03-25
    Unreality and Time.Archie J. Bahm - 1987 - International Studies in Philosophy 19 (3):68-70.
  48. added 2015-03-25
    Past, Present and Future in Relativity.Zdzisław Augustynek - 1976 - Studia Logica 35 (1):45 - 53.
  49. added 2015-03-03
    The Nature of Time.Ulrich Meyer - 2013 - Clarendon Press.
    Ulrich Meyer defends a novel theory about the nature of time, and argues against the consensus view that time and space are fundamentally alike. He presents the first comprehensive defense of a 'modal' account, which emphasizes the similarities between times and possible worlds in modal logic, and is easily reconciled with the theory of relativity.
  50. added 2015-02-12
    Metaphysics and Relativity.Katherine Hawley - 2009 - In Robin Le Poidevin, Peter Simons, Ross Cameron & Andrew McGonigal (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge.
    This is a very introductory introduction to some ways in which the special and general theories of relativity may bear upon metaphysical questions about the nature of time and space, and the persistence of objects.
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